Mongolia is a country of majestic yet harsh landscapes—hot and windswept in summer and bone-chillingly cold in winter. It encompasses what is believed to be the largest continuous temperate grassland in existence. The country hosts an array of wildlife species, including large mammals such as ibex, Przewalski’s horses, moose, camels, and two species of gazelles. Magnificent birds of prey—including the endangered imperial eagle, saker falcon, golden eagle, steppe eagle, boreal owl, and cinereous vulture—soar through its skies.
Landlocked between Russia and China, Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world. Pasture or desert comprise 90 percent of its land; the remainder is forested or cultivated. Most Mongolians live in rural areas, and about a third are nomadic or semi-nomadic, engaged in livestock herding. Spanning extreme climatic conditions, Mongolia’s wildlife habitats exhibit temperatures ranging from higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees below. In the Eastern Steppe, huge herds of Mongolian gazelles still dominate the grasslands. In the west, snow leopards and argali sheep scale the towering Altai Mountains. The critically endangered and endemic saiga antelope roams where the mountains descend to the plains of the Gobi Desert. Unfortunately, a burgeoning trade in wildlife—the result of poverty and heightened demand from foreign markets—has led to serious declines in Mongolia’s rich fauna.